A third of UK fruit and vegetables is imported from climate-vulnerable countries

Imports of fruit and vegetables from climate-vulnerable countries to the UK are on the rise. This increased reliance on fruit and vegetable imports could lead to supply problems, says new research.

The new research, led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), estimates that the domestic contribution to total fruit and vegetable supply in the UK has decreased from 42% in 1987 to 22% in 2013, while at the same time imports of fruit and vegetables from climate-vulnerable countries have increased from 20% in 1987 to 32% in 2013, according to a statement.

The team found that the variety of fruits and vegetables imported into the UK has increased, and that there have been major shifts in the types of fruits and vegetables supplied to the UK market: tropical fruits have become more popular, but the supply of traditional vegetables has significantly declined.

In 1987, 21 crops comprised the top 80% of total fruit and vegetables supplied to the UK, and this rose to 27 in 2000 and 34 in 2013. The supply of pineapples increased from 0.9% to 1.4% of overall fruit and vegetable supply, and bananas from 3% to 7.8%, over this period.

Cabbages declined from 7.5% in 1987 to 2.5% of overall fruit and vegetable supply, peas from 5.0% to 1.3% and carrots from 7.0% to 5.8%.

Given the projected trends in global climate change, the researchers say that increased reliance on fruit and vegetable imports from climate-vulnerable countries could have a negative impact on the availability, price and consumption of fruit and vegetables in the UK.

Dr Pauline Scheelbeek from LSHTM’s Centre on Climate Change & Planetary Health, who led the study, said: “The increased reliance on fruit and vegetable imports from climate-vulnerable countries will, if no adequate climate change adaptation measures are taken in the production countries, lead to fruit and vegetable supply problems in the UK and potentially affect price and consumption of such foods.”

Photo credit: David/Schofield under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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